Where Evidence Goes to Die

If you venture onto certain, kind-of well-known “sleuthing” sites and Facebook pages dedicated to this case, you will be deceived into believing that there is only one point of view on Chase Merritt’s guilt or innocence.  When, in fact, there are many.  The only reason it might appear that there is a consensus is because differing views have been pretty much silenced.  

There is nothing necessarily wrong with a blog, website or Facebook page operating this way.  But it would be nice if these forums stopped pretending to be objective.

And these sites love to conduct polls.  Why? For what purpose?  What exactly is polling a censored forum going to show? The outcome is guaranteed.  Ridiculous. 

It proves nothing.

What these forums resemble more are microcosms of  totalitarianism, and quite frankly, ignorance. Most of those posting haven’t even been watching the trial.  And the nature of these forums contradict what sleuthing or crime solving or even problem solving consists of.  Healthy debate is the cornerstone of any free society, it is also how we learn. If a person’s ideas are never challenged it is easier to believe in fallacies.  That is why in science there are peer reviews.  This is why we have trials, rather than automatically locking everyone up who might have committed a crime.

Healthy debate is a form of vetting and of learning.  And the lack of healthy debate on many of these so-called crime solving forums is why most who inhabit these spaces never truly advance in their understanding of any subject matter. Most of these participants are no more well informed today, than they were 7 years ago, and likely will be no better informed 7 years from now then they are at this moment.

A quick google search will lead you to these sites-and it is not difficult to figure out when you have landed on one.

These sites are good for a giggle.  But a man’s life hangs in the balance, so not so funny when taken in that context.

You won’t find diversity of thought in these sunken places.  If you want to know how the public at large feels, #Mcstay on twitter and the Law&Crime Youtube Law & Crime: McStay Trial comments section for this trial are the best places to view. 

And while you are there, maybe try actually watching the trial before posting about it.  Freedom of speech doesn’t have to be garbage driven, it can be well informed.

There are lots of different opinions about this case. And there likely will always be a lot of different opinions.

14 thoughts on “Where Evidence Goes to Die

  1. I’m studying to be a paralegal and I’m surprised there is someone on Websleuths claiming to be an attorney and giving legal advice. I thought that was an ethics violation.

    1. You also gotta wonder how a lawyer has got so much time to be hanging out on regular blog. Don’t they got legal blogs to discuss things on.

      1. I don’t know all the “rules” around attorneys giving advice on-line. My understanding is that this is frowned on by state bars. And that the way attorneys get around the ethics issue is with lots of disclaimers. As someone with a wee bit of legal education and a lot of experience around attorneys, both working with and hiring, is that just because someone passes the bar, does not mean they are expert in a given area of law.

        To practice in any state you have to pass the bar for that state or you have to do what someone like Kathleen Zellner does, and work with a licensed attorney in the state you are going to work in, if you are not licensed in that state.

        But not just that, there are laws around attorneys practicing in areas of law for which they are not specialized. My understanding is you aren’t allowed to practice criminal law, if your area of expertise is limited to Estate Planning.

        So the issue I would have with those who are “verified attorneys” on Websleuths is that there are no credentials given with this title. And no disclaimers regarding the advice being given. No one knows where these so-called attorneys are licensed, in what state, or what area of law they practice in. To assume, that just because someone has a law practice, say in contract law in Idaho, that they will have any true understanding of Criminal law in California is absurd. And it may, indeed violate ethics.

        I would agree as well, what is a practicing lawyer doing on Websleuths commenting in the same manner and vernacular as any other goofball on that site? Makes no sense.

        I also wonder what the legal liabilities are for Websleuths should someone be harmed by the legal advice being given, as Websleuths isn’t just allowing this advice, but appears to claim to have authenticated the source. This is actually an nteresting area of law.

        1. I had to add a couple of things. Mixed in with the price of censorship is lack of continuity. I see that someone on Websleuths is asking the opinion of some of the few participants who were allowed to stay, who believed in Merritt’s innocence. I happen to know these folks have been banned completely from the site. They can’t comment. And I follow all the social media on this case, nothing they said was offensive our out of line. They simply expressed a strong belief in Merritt’s innocence. Pretty boring to be on a site where no real difference of opinion is allowed.

          I also believe that if you present yourself as an expert, you lose the right to anonymity. People should be allow to ascertain if you really have the proper credentials to be giving legal advice, or any expert advice.

          I have real issues with this type of “expertise” being propagated without full disclosures, on any website.

            1. True. The inhumanity of some of these sites is really what is most distressing. I can’t even tell that there is real concern for victims.

  2. Why is everyone acting so crazy about this? Why does everyone act like this is about them? Babies were killed. Not everything is about you.

  3. The big discussion on Websleuths is the judge’s bowel movements. His pooping. Apparently this is why the trial isn’t going the way they want it to.

    1. Yes. That’s about the extent of evidentiary discussion that occurs on that site. Webslueths is one of the most egregious.
      I was shocked at how much trashing of victims is allowed there as well.

      There was a time I wouldn’t worry about sites like that. But you can see that stupidity, like syphilis can be infectious and spread by way of too much intimate contact. And like syphilis, over time it erodes the mind.

      Given how we interface with the on-line world now, dumb ideas have more power than they once had. It’s like that guy who showed up at the pizza parlor in DC with an AK 47, and actually believed that there was a child trafficking ring being run out of the basement. It’s scary.

      And I guess for me it’s disappointing. We are in an age that should be one of enlightenment. Where people are smarter than ever, because there is so much more information readily available to us. But also readily available is crap. Like the analysis of the trial that you mention. Who cares when someone trips off to the little-boys room. There was over 56 days of evidence presented. Incredible, in depth, sophisticated stuff-that no matter what you think of this trial, if you are interested in crime and the solving of it, it should have been a schmorgesborg of information. Yet people who steer clear, revert to potty talk instead. Unbelievable.

      1. Because they took a long lunch and left early. There’s a 2 hour heads up they have to give the family. Couldn’t do that today. This circus is over.

        1. I hope you are right. And, of course, I hope for an acquittal. I’d really like to see one less wrongful conviction that I will worry about, whether I need to or not. It’s really hard to understand how this is still going on in this day and age. How are we not getting smarter?

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